NeuWrite/Edu unites science, creative writing

Assistant professor of English Lytton Smith and distinguished teaching professor of mathematics Olympia Nicodemi have introduced the Neuwrite/Edu program to Geneseo this semester. Neuwrite/Edu looks to join people who are working in scientific research with creative writers. According to Smith, the collaboration “aims to tell contemporary science stories to a wider audience.”

Neuwrite was initially founded by graduate students at Columbia University with the intent of communicating scientific research more eloquently while still maintaining scientific accuracy. Neuwrite/Edu at Geneseo is an offshoot of the program.

“Many of my friends were involved in the group [while in New York City] and it was on my radar,” Smith said. “The logical next step was to think about it at the undergraduate level, because many students here are already fulfilling much more than the undergraduate requirements,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the Geneseo campus provides a great starting ground for the initiative. “I think Geneseo students are excited about trying new things … It’s struck me since I came here,” he said. “It’s a really collaborative place.” Smith has been a member of the Geneseo faculty since 2014.

At Geneseo, the program will attempt to pair creative non-fiction writers with students conducting scientific research. Neuwrite/Edu will prompt students to think creatively and accurately about the way science research is released to the public.

Smith noted that writers and science researchers’ jobs are inherently similar; that the divide between these isn’t as great as one might believe. “I believe that the division between science and writing—that people who work those fields know—isn’t true,” Smith said. “Scientists have to be imaginative and writers have to be detail-oriented.”

In particular, creative writing has recently begun to be taken more seriously in an academic setting. “I often talk about experimental writing––something that’s already drawn from science––and conversely always involved in all forms of writing,” Smith said. “Even writing equations is a process of communicating and thinking about how things go together.”

Smith also spoke about how important it is for scientists to communicate their research. “It’s important given how strong Science, Technology, Engineering and Math subjects are at Geneseo that we are giving scientists venues to present their work and then giving them an audience to augment their work,” he said.

Currently, the Neuwrite program has meetings once a month. Writers and scientists “speed-date” in order to gain an understanding of each other’s research and writing styles. Students then meet up afterward and present ideas and approaches for the first draft. Smith hopes that students will culminate their collaborations with presentations at Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement and Talent—otherwise known as G.R.E.A.T.—Day this year.

In the future, Smith noted that he hopes that the project becomes solidified in Geneseo activities. “We’d like to see it become an annual process where there are possibilities for professors to develop linked courses, association groups, more with radio and perhaps middle and high school involvement down the road,” he said. Participants will also be encouraged to submit their written pieces to journals and websites for publishing.

Smith explained that both he and Nicodemi are striving to promote the program to all students. A Neuwrite/Edu website is in the process of establishment, but for now, students are encouraged to contact both Smith and Nicodemi to learn more about getting involved with the new initiative.